EDITORIAL: Be careful what you ask for

There is always a danger in any downsizing effort a business or government concern engages in that it will lose valuable employees it didn’t plan on shedding. Such we believe the case to be in Macon-Bibb County. The latest departure is E-911 Director Keith Moffett. Fresh from his department being named the 911 Center of the Year by the Georgia Association of Public Safety Communication Officers and the Georgia Chapter of the National Emergency Number Association, Moffett will take his talents up Interstate 75 to become the county administrator in Butts County.

Moffett follows Assistant County Manager Steve Layson, Information Technology Director Stephen Masteller, Facilities Maintenance Director Gene Simonds and Recreation Director Dale “Doc” Dougherty out of the county employment door.

The county is looking to downsize -- some would say “right size” -- its workforce, and made an offer many of its employees are finding too good to pass up. While the county is looking to eliminate 93 positions outside of public safety, there are 400 employees that are eligible to retire and so far, 165 employees, including public safety, have decided to leave. Granted, some of the departures are due to natural attrition.

The last time the county made an early retirement offer, consolidation was just a far off dream and the county had to rehire some of the same employees under contract who had turned in their ID badges. While every department is different, that may or may not be the case in some departments this time. After the July 31 deadline, the picture will become clearer as to how many employees decided to retire and what kind of financial impact their separation will have on the county.

While public safety positions were always expected to be filled, many of the other vacancies may not have been on the Human Resources radar screens.

Concerns that employees might be pressured into taking the retirement packages seem to be unfounded. The county, including public safety, may be losing a bit more institutional knowledge than they would like.

The county can use this opportunity to stress in each department the need for building bench strength. The days of guaranteed government jobs are over and those left behind need to be able to step up when the need arises.